How do AMD C50 processors work

The best netbook processor

Thomas Rau

AMD or Intel? This question becomes interesting again with netbooks. Because the new AMD C-50 is a real competitor for Intel's Atom. PC-WELT clarifies who builds the best netbook CPU.

EnlargeAre netbooks with AMD CPUs like the Acer Aspire One 522 actually better mini-notebooks?

A year ago everything was still very simple: In almost all netbooks, an Atom processor worked with a computing core. Usually this was the Atom N450 or the N455 (1.66 GHz) with Hyper-Threading. Its computing power was modest, but it was economical and thus ensured a long battery life. And there were no real alternatives.

Now everything is different: With the N550, Intel has a real dual-core Atom for netbooks in its range. And the eternal Intel competitor AMD is starting with the C-50, which is preparing to end Intel's atomic rule. PC-WELT investigates who is suitable for a dual-core processor in a netbook and what advantages AMD's new processor brings.

Is a dual core processor worthwhile for the netbook?

Netbooks are computationally weak. Even an entry-level notebook for around 500 euros works on average around three times as fast as a mini laptop. And nowadays there is a real dual-core processor even in the cheapest notebooks. Can netbooks with dual-core CPUs make up ground here?

The Atom N550 has two real computing cores. It also works with Hyper-Threading: The operating system can use four processing units. However, this only brings clear advantages with programs that are prepared for it: Here a netbook with N550 actually worked almost twice as fast as one with N450 despite the lower clock rate.

Processor performance (Cinebench 10.5)

Intel Atom N550

1452 points

Intel Atom N455

852 points

In everyday life, however, programs usually run on netbooks that cannot do anything with multiple cores. The second trump card of a multi-core CPU hardly stands out in netbooks either: It accelerates multi-tasking, i.e. working with several programs at the same time. But here the small working memory of only 1 GB slows down the netbooks, so that a multi-core CPU is hardly advantageous.

System performance (PC Mark 05)

total

CPU performance

Intel Atom N550

1630 points

1739 points

Intel Atom N450

1294 points

1426 points

Overall, the tempo plus of a netbook with N550 with standard programs compared to a previous model is only around 20 percent. Buying a new netbook is not worthwhile just because of the dual core processor.

EnlargeIs a dual core Atom processor like the one in the Samsung NF310 worthwhile?

3D and multimedia performance

Even with games, the Atom N550 hardly brings any more speed: Its Intel GMA 3150 graphics unit is the same as in the N450 - and therefore unsuitable except for very old or graphically simple games.

3D performance (3D Mark 06)

total

CPU performance

Intel Atom N550

143

746

Intel Atom N450

153

497

The dual core processor does not help the netbooks with HD videos either. Even netbooks with N550 do not pack YouTube videos in Full HD. As with devices with N450, a maximum of 720p videos can be played smoothly.
The dual-core netbooks did not do better than the N450 models in WMA HD videos either: the display of Full HD material seemed a bit smoother. However, the dual core notebooks also showed a clear image / sound offset.
Atom netbooks are completely unsuitable for Blu-rays - except for the few and expensive devices in which the Atom processor is supported by a video accelerator from Broadcom that makes the mini laptops Full HD capable. In addition, Atom netbooks do not offer an HDMI output for connection to a full HD television. In practice, playing a Blu-ray from an external drive usually fails due to an error message from the playback software that complains about an incompatible driver.

The AMD processor C-50, on the other hand, is supposed to significantly accelerate netbooks, especially with HD videos and games. You can find out on the next page whether this is true and whether this is at the expense of battery life.